I don’t want to talk about guns, nor do I want to talk about the lack of guns at work here. In fact, I don’t want to talk at all about public policy responses to what happened in Toronto. Or in Nashville. Or in Parkland. Or in Orlando. Or in Sutherland Springs. Or Virginia Tech. Or Columbine.
I want to look instead at what’s driving this phenomenon, and let me define the phenomenon: Men deciding to randomly kill as many people as they can, often people they know only casually or in some cases not at all. Who the victims are doesn’t much seem to matter. It only matters that the kill number is as high as possible.
This was true in all of the incidents I referenced in the opening paragraph. You weren’t any more or less likely to be killed because of who you were, only because of where you were and when you were there.
Some of the school shooters could be said to be motivated at least in part by bad experiences they’d had at school, but once they showed up at the school, they didn’t target their specific tormenters. They just killed whoever they could shoot.
The secular world is going to focus on “mental illness,” because the secular world’s limited frame of reference can’t look any deeper than that. But God’s people should recognize the clear spiritual nature of the pattern here.
Mass killings are certainly not new, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen them this frequent and also this random – one incident after another in which a person no one had ever heard of suddenly shows up and murders a larger number of complete strangers, often in a highly public setting.
These people are going on spectacular, pointless rampages that they have to know will essentially spell the end of their own lives. In order to make such a choice, you have to disregard not only the moral implications but also the reality of what it means for your own future. You simply no longer care about either.
To observe that this is demonic seems as elementary as saying the sun rises in the east. The question is what kinds of demons are involved here, and how are they working?
For one thing, my experience with people who need deliverance is that there is rarely just one demon at work in people who are under spiritual oppression and/or agitation. Usually one demon establishes a stronghold, but then manipulates the person’s thinking so as to open the door for other demons to operate in tandem with the first.
You might point to a spirit of anger (Ephesians 4:26-27) as an obvious suspect, but I’m not sure anger would necessarily be the demon laying the foundation. Anger is usually an unhealthy reaction to something negative we feel or experience, and a person with a more peaceful, godly soul might have had a more constructive reaction.
That leads me to suspect self-doubt or unworthiness. Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, was apparently bullied pretty mercilessly in the years that led up to his troubles with the law. He also lost both his parents, which probably caused him to feel a sense of abandonment. That can give rise to a spirit of unworthiness.
When there’s a spirit that’s always telling you you’re unworthy, and that all your heartbreak and frustrations are because you weren’t worthy of anything better, you become emotionally crestfallen and often embrace anger as a defense mechanism against any more hurt.
A cousin of anger is resentment, a distinct but similar spirit that focuses on blame and recrimination for all the hurt people have caused you. If you’re dealing with a spirit of unworthiness that’s opening the door for anger and resentment, you’ve pretty much become a tinder box.
But here’s a bigger question for us as Christians: How can we understand what might be happening culturally that gives rise to the work of such spiritual cabals, such that they can provoke so many people to so much random violence?
I would speculate about a couple of things: One is the rising inclination to encourage people to find fault with others for their own struggles in life. You have problems? Blame Trump. Blame your boss. Blame the police. Blame your parents. Blame the last person you think looked at you crosseyed.
People with little money sit and watch TV lawyers encouraging them to sue for six-figure jury awards. They’re told that they only reason they don’t have what they want is that no one has given them “justice.”
That breeds resentment. That breeds anger. And the more this thinking is mainstreamed, the less surprised we should be to see people internalize such anger and resentment, and act on it.
The second is the easily accessed outlets we have for expressions of anger and hatred. Is there anything else that happens on Twitter all day long? Everyone is mocking and scoffing at everyone. Everyone is getting in their digs. Everyone is dehumanizing those not like themselves.
That detracts in general from the notion of people’s lives having value. So the person who is already struggling with self-worth could easily be led to look at his own life, as well as those of others around him, and decide that none of them have any inherent value. Kill them. Bring your own life to an end in any meaningful sense. What difference does it make?
Of course, at the root of all this is society’s continued marginalization of God. People care nothing for His laws, His glory or His sovereignty. They feel no gratitude toward Him. No devotion to Him. And people are increasingly brave about mocking the faithful because there is less societal sanction for doing so – if there remains any at all.
When society has such little reverence for God, and everyone tries to substitute their own constructs of morality without His power at work, you end up with massive deception, with demons easily misleading people into thinking their own man-made moral codes will suffice.
How do we respond? Well, contrary to constant attacks on those who offer “thoughts and prayers,” we need to pray above all else against the demonic oppression that’s giving rise to these attacks. And we need to boldly declare God’s Word, refusing to concede the notion that His law should play no role in people’s lives, or that His moral code is not relevant.
Societal patterns of evil always have demonic underpinnings. If we can recognize the spiritual deceptions that give rise to these patterns, we can do battle in the spiritual realm – under the authority of our General, the Lord Jesus Christ – and win victories over this evil.
Strap on the armor, brothers and sisters. Brush up on Ephesians 6 and remember the power and authority of the one who redeemed you.
Get the complete collection of Dan’s books for the low-price of $49.99! Dan will sign all copies . Order the 4-pack of Powers and Principalities, Pharmakeia, Dark Matter and Backstop.
Or order individually for $15.99 each!
Powers and Principalities (2009): Twenty years ago, Clay Bender saw the face of spiritual evil with the naked eye while attending a party. Now, Clay’s terrifying spiritual gift returns, showing him that a supernatural threat is looming – one that could threaten everyone in Royal Oak. As the community grapples with bizarre electrical disturbances and a horrible train derailment, only Clay can recognize the true nature of the strange events, and he and his two closest friends have little time to battle the city’s demons – even as all three are forced to face their own. (Buy Now button for signed hard copy: $15.99. Amazon button for digital download: $2.99)
Pharmakeia (2010): Kyla Spears is being warned – in terrifying dreams – of grisly and violent tragedies looming for young people in Royal Oak. But her spiritually gifted friend Clay Bender is reluctant to help, and her feelings for one charming young man threaten her newfound spiritual integrity and her ability to face the truth about what’s really behind the threat. (Buy Now button for signed hard copy: $15.99. Amazon button for digital download: $2.99)